This was my first time to the Denver gem and mineral show which is held every year in September. This show is considerably smaller than the Tucson Gem Show and because of this, I’d recommend trying this one on if you're worried about getting overwhelmed by the Tucson show (trust me, it happens).
The Denver Mineral Show is similar to Tucson in many ways. There are lots of different venues at both shows and they are broken up by different areas of interest. My main focuses were on rough rock and lapidary material but I did find some finished gemstones, crystals, and some lapidary tools I was keeping an eye open for. As everything was new for me, I did not go in looking for any specific vendors and simply allowed myself to explore and discover new vendors as I went. I also made note of several vendors that had some hidden treasures so I could revisit their supplies when visiting the Tucson Gem Show in the future.
I keep a detailed spreadsheet of all the materials I purchase along with the vendor information, where and when I found it, pricing, and other notes. This method has been extremely helpful when pricing my finished jewelry, planning for replenishment of specific materials, contacting the vendor during off season, or simply to request product holds for viewing when at the show.
Take Lots of Photos
A visual track record can help you remember each day, show location, or which vendor had items you were potentially interested in. I regularly go back through photos when I want to acquire new material that I had not previously purchased but remember seeing somewhere at some booth or other.
Tips for Purchasing from Vendors
If you find several things you are interested in at one booth, keep in mind that you can do some price negotiating. This works to your advantage if you happen to be visiting with others who also want to make purchases from the same vendor. The more you all purchase together, the bigger the discount could be.
It never hurts to ask if they have price breaks for multiple quantities or to negotiate. These vendors do have some wiggle room and it never hurts to ask. Having cash vs credit card can also be a negotiating tool for many vendors. After experiencing this first hand, I now always bring enough cash so I can use it as a bartering tool. BTW, it should go without saying that if you're traveling with lots of cash, it's a good idea to keep it inside a hidden, inside-waistband pouch or a pickpocket-proof handbag just to be safe.
The photo here is a bin of pietersite slabs in water. I did purchase a chunk of this material and I'm excited to use it in my designs. Check out this link for more information on pietersite.